Last week was the first time since I’ve been in South Korea that someone touched my hair without my permission. If you know me, you know that this is a massive deal to which my reactions range from approach with caution to run for your life. I have a story for you, travel back in time with me…
The day is Friday, April 18th and it is the early afternoon. “Are there any questions about the lesson?” This is how I always begin my end of class spiel followed by, “are there any questions for Tarah Teacher?” The kids know that this is an opportunity to ask me questions about absolutely anything within reason including my love life, the United States, my opinions on Kpop, etc. The class hums a robotic “no” and I dismiss them.
As I’m packing up my computer I feel something touch my hair, which is braided and in a bun. I quickly turn around to see a student walking behind me towards her friend and laughing. She didn’t seem to be paying me any attention. I conclude that it was an accident and maybe she had brushed me with her folder. I finish packing my things and begin walking back to my office. Halfway down the hall I happily go, oblivious to what is about to take place. All of a sudden another female student creeps behind me, reaches around to the back of my head, and squeezes my bun. After accomplishing her evil plan and making the universal sound of awe, “oooh,” she disappears into the stealthy student dimension from which she came. I just stood there.
Fast forward back to the present –
Now, I prepared myself for this violation to occur from the moment I stepped off the airplane. I would dare to say maybe even to the point of paranoia, but as the days flew by nothing happened. I wore my hair up, down, wrapped, wild and never got anything but stares and compliments. Weeks passed and I was just starting to think that maybe it wasn’t going to happen, and then it did.
In the U.S. I have cursed out and almost come to blows with melanin-deficient (read white) people that have dared to breach my personal bubble and partake in my glorious mane uninvited. I am not an animal in a zoo or a dog or a cat that one can pet whenever they feel like it, so I find touching my hair to be an act of extreme disrespect and voyeurism.
After I realized it wasn’t an accident, I just stood frozen in the hallway for a minute to process what had just happened. I had been disrespected was my first thought, which infuriated me. A Mean Girls moment happened as I imagined pushing through the sea of students walking to class to take revenge, but as I snapped back to reality I just laughed. I know that the girls knew they shouldn’t have touched my hair that way, hence the sneakiness, but they’re just kids. This is what I signed up for and I knew exactly what I was getting myself into. I’m going to take this and turn it into a lesson for my students to help inspire and open their minds. I wonder what I would’ve done if they weren’t students though…